Go Outside and Play! I Triple Dog Dare You!


When I was a child in the 1950s and '60s, life was much simpler than it is — or seems to be — today. Perhaps that's because those of us who are now grandparents reflect on those days from a child's point of view. Because that's what we were then. Our parents and other adults probably didn't think it was so easy, or simple. Maybe they did. I don't know.

But I do know that our generation, the baby boomers, experienced things no other generation will ever have the privilege of doing unless we share our stories and encourage our grandchildren to go back to those activities and discover for themselves how much fun we had!

When was the last time your grandchildren went outside to play? Do they regularly ride a bicycle or scooter? Have they strapped on a pair of four-wheeled roller skates or gone to a skating rink? Climbed a tree and let the breeze sway them back and forth on the farthest limb? Rolled down a hill, giggling all the way? Built a tent from twigs and bark? Made forts from blankets and chairs? Skipped rope? Played jacks? Whacked a tether ball around its pole? Swung as high as they possible could 'til it felt like they might touch the clouds? Waded in a stream or tried to catch minnows? Collected rocks or fossils? Invited friends for a sleepover? Had a rousing pillow fight?

On a hot summer day, have they floated on their backs in a pool and tried cloud spotting (looking for shapes in the clouds)? Run and splashed through a sprinkler? Captured grasshoppers with their bare hands just to see if they would spit "tobacco juice"? Slurped water from the garden hose when they got thirsty? Split a double Popsicle with a sibling or friend? Caught fireflies and made a lantern? Relaxed by a campfire at night roasting marshmallows or making s'mores? Listened to the crickets chirping as they drifted off to sleep? Been awakened to help look for nightcrawlers by flashlight to use for the next day's fishing trip?

Do your grandchildren know how to play the games we enjoyed? Dodgeball, kickball, tag, hopscotch, London Bridge, Ring Around the Rosie, Kick the Can, Hot Potato, Mother May I?, Simon Says? I certainly hope so, but one never knows these days when children seem to stay indoors so much. Have they ever in their life spun a hula hoop around their waist? Or played Twister? How many even know what Red Rover, Red Rover is anymore?

(Incidentally, I introduced my two oldest to Red Rover, Red Rover on their school playground until a supervisor informed us the game is forbidden because smaller kids, or their parents, complained they were getting hurt when they tried to break the line. That is just sad. We played this game ALL THE TIME and it would have been an embarrassment to cry or complain. What is happening? When did we become so overprotective that our children can't even have a decent game of Red Rover? It would have been better, in my opinion, just to remove the smaller children from the game and have them play something more age-appropriate. But then I'm a child of the '50s and '60s when a few minor scrapes and bruises were OK and, as many adults claimed, "built character." How many times did we hear those words?)

When was the last time you bought Cracker Jack for your grandchildren just to watch their faces when they found the prize inside? Some cereals used to have prizes. I wonder if there are any that still do?

In my day, decisions were made by chanting "eeny meeny miney mo" or by playing rock paper scissors. Mistakes were handled with "do overs" and if anyone "threatened" us with a challenge it was simply a dare, double dog dare or triple dog dare. Nothing was ever taken that seriously. Cooties were the worst disease you could possibly get from the opposite gender, water balloons were the ultimate weapon, and we played outside until the street lights came on.

Our house seemed to have a revolving door for all the kids in the neighborhood, and Mom welcomed everyone cheerfully. Mom was always the prettiest girl and Dad the handsomest man. Boo-boos were instantly and magically made better when Mom or Grandma kissed them. Someone somewhere always had a plate of freshly baked cookies. Any adult in the neighborhood could parent your children and, if necessary, reprimand them without fear of a lawsuit! Village parenting was actually welcomed and no one thought a thing of it. Our neighborhoods, by and large, were safe havens, and the only reason we were in fear for our lives was because we didn't want our parents to be mad at us.

Oh, how I wish we could go back to those days. Before technology sapped our children's motivation. I experienced every single one of these things mentioned above and our two children had a glorious childhood doing a lot of them, too. Our daughter won't allow technology to rule her daughters' lives. They each have a Kindle and access to the Internet, but they both have enjoyed the vast majority of the things mentioned above. In fact, they would both rather be outside playing with friends than inside watching TV. And they are the richer for it. During one particular slumber party, Jain, Sofia and a friend made a teepee using natural materials they found on the ground behind the house. When our daughter posted the photos on Facebook, she added this caption: "My girls had a friend over for a sleepover last night, and they spent the evening and part of this morning making this amazing teepee. Doesn't it make you feel better about the world knowing that kids still do stuff like this during slumber parties?" Yes! Indeed it makes me so happy and gives me hope for the future!

The children of the '50s, '60s and '70s are now grandparents and will one day no longer be around to share stories of their childhood. I beg of you, dear readers, to tell your grandchildren what your childhood was like, and keep that history alive today. Technology and the information age have transported us to a much different world, and it has many fantastic benefits. But we still need to remember what childhood was once like and encourage our children and grandchildren to play outside, climb trees, build forts, run through sprinklers, talk to and befriend their neighbors, develop a deep, abiding appreciation of nature, respect their elders and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what came before is an excellent foundation on which to build their own path to adulthood. Now, let's go play! And remember, as Grampy says, HAVE FUN!